LET INGA TELL YOU:
I wrote last week about finding the ideal Christmas gift for Olof: a slide rule. I’d like to report that it is being lovingly slid on a daily basis. Who knew there were so many reasons to calculate a logarithm?
But this Christmas was special for another milestone: For the first time ever, I finally got to buy a grandchild a pair of earrings, in this case some sapphire-ish studs, her birthstone, to adorn her newly-pieced 8-year-old ears.
My adult life has included two husbands (I’m still married to one of them), two sons, two nephews, and a dog named Winston. Nary a girl in sight until two lovely young women deigned to marry my sons (truthfully, we thought the ladies could do better) and produced two granddaughters (as well as three grandsons).
I adore all five more than life itself. But boys? Been there, done that. My sons were never all that interested in lunch and shopping. And maybe that’s the good news.
Hours after my first granddaughter’s birth, my fantasies went wild about all the things that we would do. I fervently hoped she would join a long line of proud feminists and enjoy learning about how her great-great, and great-great-greatgrandmothers were passionate suffragists, dedicated to the right of women to vote.
It was clear to me when my sons were young that boys and girls were very different beings. We would be at the home of a friend who had only girls, and my sons would be tearing around the house while the daughters were sitting on the floor dressing Barbies. Clearly annoyed, the friend would say, “Could you please ask your sons to play quietly?” And I’d think, “Sure, I can ask, but good luck with that.”
It’s not that they couldn’t be controlled or even compelled to sit, but “playing quietly” was an oxymoron. It didn’t take too long until we pretty much didn’t have friends who only had girls. Not that girls can’t be holy terrors themselves.
My two granddaughters (my other son produced a daughter 18 months after his brother did) are polar opposites. Yet when they come together, they bond like long-lost siblings, perhaps because neither has a sister or even female cousin of her own. Although both are theoretically Californians, I think they regard each other as exotic foreign exchange students, each marveling at the dramatically different life of the other.
My older granddaughter lives in the uber-competitive world of West L.A. She and her brothers all play multiple sports (both of their parents did in their youths as well) starting with Soccer Skills class at 18 months. It’s a rare holiday weekend that doesn’t include at least one tournament.
In a galaxy far far away, my younger granddaughter spends her weekends in Santa Cruz hiking public lands (for which they have annual passes) with her older brother and her parents, and invited friends, picking berries with which they make pies or jams when they get home. They raise chickens in the backyard for fresh eggs, and otherwise lead an unfrenetic life of wholesome organic-ness.
When both granddaughters were here in July of 2017 for Olof’s and my joint 70th birthday celebration, I regularly fielded queries from one about the other. West L.A. granddaughter observed in total astonishment, “Mormor, did you know that Molly doesn’t play a single sport?” West L.A. granddaughter could not even fathom that there were children who didn’t have assorted athletic bags piled up by the front door.
Santa Cruz granddaughter was equally puzzled. “So, you have to go somewhere after school every single day?” She could not imagine that this would be a chosen life.
One afternoon when all the grandkids were in the pool, Santa Cruz granddaughter announced that she had to go to the bathroom. So she jumped out of the pool, went behind the nearest semi-camouflaging philodendron, pulled down her suit, went, pulled it back up, and was back in the pool all within a matter of 30 seconds.
West L.A. granddaughter was dumbstruck. “Mormor,” she asked me later, “is that allowed?”
“Well,” I said, “it sort of depends on who your parents are. And where you live.” I explained that in her cousin’s world, she spends a lot of time hiking around park lands where there are not actual bathrooms, so that’s what you do.
But the young ladies were a solidly united front hawking cherry tomatoes from our plants at our front gate at exorbitant prices to generous passers-by. Farmers markets were a language they both understood.
When I learned that my older granddaughter had recently had her ears pierced, I was thrilled at the opportunity of a first-ever purchase of earrings for a child or grandchild. I don’t know who got more pleasure from it, me shopping for them or her wearing them. But it’s a whole new era. And I’m loving it.
— Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org